Rep. TJ Sends Letter Urging State Department to Protect Sikhs in Afghanistan
May 7, 2020
This week, Rep. TJ Cox (CA-21), Vice Chair of the American Sikh Caucus, signed a letter lead by Rep. John Garamendi (CA-3) to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging the State Department to help protect and safely relocate members of the Sikh religious minority fleeing Afghanistan in the wake of attacks from the Islamic State. On March 25, 2020, Islamic State terrorists attacked a Sikh gurdwara (house of worship) in Kabul, Afghanistan, killing 25 people. This was followed by an attack targeted at the funeral for those killed at the gurdwara, compounding the tragedy and highlighting the fact that the threat against the Sikh community in Afghanistan from the Islamic State remains severe.
Two months ago, the State Department helped to establish the International Religious Freedom Alliance, a group of countries committed to advancing religious freedom and “predicated on the idea that more must be done to protect members of religious minority groups.” Currently, travel restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have led to the temporary restriction on admissions for most refugees, however the situation the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus face is urgent.
To help them, the members are urging the State Department to take all available steps to facilitate the safe and expeditious relocation of members of the Sikh and Hindu religious minorities in Afghanistan by considering referring Afghan Sikh and Hindus to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) through Priority 1 embassy referrals. Normally, referrals to the USRAP are generally used in small numbers and situations of extreme danger, but this situation is extremely grave and urge you to expand the use of this measure to save Afghan Sikhs and Hindus. They are also asking for a reallocation of current refugee admissions priorities based on global needs to allow for Afghan Sikhs and Hindus to come to the United States this fiscal year.
In the letter, the member’s wrote: “The protection of religious freedom is one of principles on which the International Religious Freedom Alliance was founded, and now is the time to demonstrate the administration’s commitment to that principle by leading this alliance in coordinated, multilateral action to protect an endangered religious minority community.”
Read the full letter text here